Former Public Investment Corporation CEO Daniel Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Former Public Investment Corporation CEO Daniel Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was highly concerned about the working environment at the state-owned asset manager as far back as 2013, according to one of its past directors.

Vuyo Jack, an entrepreneur and co-founder of BEE ratings agency Empowerdex, testified before the PIC commission of inquiry on Monday that the board — to which he had been appointed in December 2012 — was concerned about the working environment at the corporation in 2013 and appointed audit and consulting company Deloitte to conduct a “climate survey”.

The climate survey was established to assess the working conditions at the PIC through a series of staff interviews.

“The reason the board commissioned the survey was because [there] was mounting tensions in various sub-committees and the exco [executive committee],” Jack said.

The environment was portrayed as having a culture of fear, including blame-shifting and poor decision-making that contributed to a lack of strategic direction. Management was governed by fear and lacked people-management skills, moving the “goal posts” all the time.

Jack then proposed an “innovation lab” as a proactive way of dealing with the staff issues.

Jack says these sessions were rolled out to staff at all of the PIC’s offices with very encouraging feedback.

“But some exco members were not happy with the energy that was unleashed as a result of these sessions. As a consequence, the sessions were permanently terminated without credible motivation given to myself and the board,” says Jack.

In response to questions from the commissioners, Jack identified Dan Matjila, at that stage the chief investment officer, and CFO Matshepo More, as the two members most irked by these engagements and the individuals behind the termination of the sessions.

By contrast, then CEO Elias Masilela and COO Petro Decker “enjoyed” the sessions and participated constructively.

The inquiry into the PIC’s governance is being led by retired judge Lex Mpati. The corporation has been embroiled in numerous controversies that include allegations of corruption.

The PIC manages more than R2-trillion in assets on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and other social security funds such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation Fund.

thompsonw@businesslive.co.za